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Love’s Not Like Clockwork . . . or Reality TV

 I don’t know if it’s a man thing or not, but I suffer from what I’ll call a certain antipathy to ceremony-the idea that I have to think, feel, or act a certain way because of a “special” time, place or occasion.  I loathe the fuss of birthday parties (Surprise!), detest the countdown to the “spontaneous” celebration of January 1st (Happy New Year!) and absolutely reject the calculated “romance” of Valentine’s Day (I Love You.  Today.  Right here, right now.  Have a chocolate). 

 I say this as my wife slips in an out of my space, offering little snippets of “spur-of-the-moment” conversation; subtly, she thinks (or subtly, I think she thinks) hinting that Valentine’s Day is fast approaching.  Me?  I couldn’t care less.  But read on, if you think I’m somehow less than romantic . . . or maybe, suddenly, gripped by some vacuous-husband death wish.

 In the same way that women can shop for hours-actually enjoying the process even more than the purchase-men prefer the direct in and out (hmmm), cutting quick to the chase with near-military precision.  It’s ingrained-genetic, like Seinfeld once said, Me, Tarzan, You, Jane-hunter-gather males, nurturing females.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that . . . until Valantine’s Day, that is, when men everywhere have to become something they’re not.

 A quick case in point, ladies, or maybe several: Real men aren’t like those guys on the soaps or those guys in the novels.  We don’t answer to names like Ridge, Thorn or Stone and we don’t swoon or cry.  We don’t remember the date we first met you or the words you first said, and if by chance we do recall your birthstone, it’s because your mother told us.  And you wanna know why?

 ‘Cause we’re too damn busy.

 See, once we found you-our main quest and purpose (how’s that for romance?)-our work wasn’t done.   In fact, we’re still hunting and gathering, trying to keep you.  That’s why, for most men, love isn’t an occasion or something you say.  It’s not something you turn on or off like a faucet.  That’s why most men aren’t Bold and Beautiful, they’re more like Forrest Gump.  And to paraphrase that sad romantic, love isn’t like a box of chocolates, it’s something much more: getting up, going to work, and coming home again . . . day after day after day.

 And maybe that’s why we don’t constantly say that you’re beautiful or compliment your hair or your clothes.  Maybe that’s why we don’t always answer when you ask if your hair’s turning gray or your butt’s getting fat.  See, Ali McGraw just got it half right when she said “love means never having to say you’re sorry.”  Love, for men, means never having to say anything.  It’s a contentment-a security-that comes from knowing that you’ve already been hunted, already gathered.  So next time you start stressing out that you’re not what you used to be, realize, to us, it just doesn’t matter.  We leave every day and come home every night, remember?  How can flowers top that?

 In our minds, it can’t.  But still . . .

 My wife and I have been watching The Bachelor lately, thirty women each vying for one guy-cut loose or kept on-one impossible dream date after another.   But true love, or reality doesn’t happen like that; in fact it’s much more like this (or considering the number of divorces, maybe should be).

 After a year together, my girlfriend and I had a huge fight.  Faced with the prospect of ending it, I realized I couldn’t live without her.  I went back for Round II and got right to the point.  “We’ve had a terrible fight,” I said.  “And right now, we hate each other.  I know you’d say yes if I proposed on some romantic cruise or a trip to the islands, but that’s not what marriage is all about.  I don’t think we’ll ever be angrier than we are right now . . . and despite that, I still love you.  So . . . will you marry me?”

 My girlfriend’s jaw dropped, torn between anger and the practical reality of what I’d just said.  It’s easy to be in love on a dream date but what happens after you wake up?  The more she thought about it the more I made sense.  Thankfully, she said ‘yes’.  

 Anyway, 25 years later, I’m still with the same girl, she’s still with the same guy.  The same guy that thinks saying “I love you’ on February 14th is about as romantic as slipping on a condom or waiting for the Viagra to kick in.  See, for me, “making love” is a day-to-day thing, sharing a home, a bed, a life . . . but still, I’m not stupid.

 I’ve heard all the hints about Valentine’s Day approaching and for that reason I’ll buy the flowers and make reservations.  At dinner that night I’ll say something mushy and she’ll pretend to believe me, the two of us older but no worse for wear, and somehow maybe, a little better. 

 Love-for one day, anyway-like clockwork. 

 Just like TV.

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